Fayette County

Former corrections officers sue jail after termination

Two former employees of the Fayette County Detention Center have sued the local government and current and former jail officials, saying they were fired after they were injured during job-training classes.

Silas David Brumfield and John A. Rheaume say in their lawsuits, both filed Nov. 16 in Fayette Circuit Court, that they were told to come off doctor-ordered light duty at the jail or risk being fired, and later were fired after they inquired about worker's compensation benefits to pay for medical treatment.

Both men were corrections officers who were hired July 29, 2010, according to the lawsuits.

Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, said the local government does not comment on open lawsuits.

Sgt. Jennifer Taylor, spokeswoman for the jail and a defendant in both suits, said she didn't have any comment at this point.

The jail has been the subject of several lawsuits and investigations during the past few years.

Both Brumfield and Rheaume are represented by the same attorney, Suzanne Lee Shaffar of Lexington.

Brumfield says in his suit that he was injured Oct. 1, 2010, while participating in angle-kicks training. He says that on Oct. 26, 2010, while still having problems with his left leg, he fell down concrete steps during training at the jail.

Brumfield, a Lexington resident, says he was discouraged from seeing a doctor after his initial injury. Later, after a doctor ordered that he be placed on light duty, Taylor, the jail's training coordinator, told Brumfield to get off light duty or be terminated, according to the suit. The Urgent Treatment Center he had visited cleared him to be taken off light duty but told him to continue with physical therapy. But, he says, Capt. Shawn Simpson at the jail refused to allow him time off from work to attend physical therapy sessions, so he missed many sessions. Brumfield eventually underwent an MRI that revealed an incomplete fracture to his left hip and a chipped bone in his left knee. He was told he would need surgery, according to the lawsuit.

Brumfield says that after he was injured, jail officials tried to make him quit his job by assigning him to the second shift, the only shift he had told them from the outset that he could not work because of court orders in a case involving his minor child, and by assigning him to work with a captain who was known to be difficult to work with.

Brumfield was fired from the jail Feb. 21 after he said he would need worker's compensation benefits to pay for two surgeries and time off work, the lawsuit says.

Rheaume, in his lawsuit, says he experienced pain in his right shoulder while participating in a handcuffing class as part of his training as a new recruit at the detention center on Sept. 24, 2010. He says he was urged by jail personnel to monitor his injury, rather than go to a doctor. Rheaume went to an emergency room on Oct. 3, 2010, because he was experiencing severe pain in his shoulder, according to the suit. Later, he was diagnosed with an acromioclavicular sprain. Rheaume returned to work with a doctor's note requesting two weeks of light duty. On Oct. 11, 2010, Taylor and another officer at the jail told him he needed to come off light duty, the suit says.

Rheaume, a Nicholasville resident, said he begged his doctor to be taken off light duty, and the doctor faxed a letter saying he could return to regular duty the following day.

In November 2010, his doctor again ordered light duty for Rheaume because his injury had not healed. Rheaume asked Taylor about worker's compensation benefits to provide for his medical care. Taylor prepared a memorandum recommending that he be fired, the suit says. Taylor falsely stated that Rheaume was injured during military training and that the injury interfered with completion of his required training at the jail, according to the suit. On Nov. 22, 2010, Taylor told Rheaume he could either resign or be fired for not completing a training phase. Rheaume says he had completed the training phase, which was optional, the previous week. Rheaume refused to resign and was fired that day, according to the lawsuit.

Both men maintain that the defendants violated Kentucky laws, and they say the defendants' conduct caused them emotional distress and further bodily injury. They say that as a result of the defendants' retaliation, they have been unable to obtain permanent full-time employment in a regular labor market.

They are asking for damages, including punitive damages, attorneys' fees and other costs, and jury trials.